Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Getting Going on Gardening

In my neck of the woods (SE Idaho) there are days when it is spring, and days when it is winter. Yesterday was Spring, the day before was Winter, today is dreary and the forecast calls for more dreary for the next five days. The stores have their gardening supplies out, and have since Valentine's Day, so the gardening bug is digging in deep. However, there is one HUGE problem...Our average last frost falls around May 25th. Yeah, that's a long ways away. And just to be safe, we don't plant our garden until the first week in June, because the weather Memorial Day weekend (which would be a great time to plant) is ALWAYS crudy. Cold, wet, rainy, gross. So we wait. However, it's almost time to start seedlings indoors. And that's exciting!

What Mr. S and I have done the past two years is make newspaper pots to start seeds in. These actually break down in the soil (as opposed to those biodegradable peat pots) over the course of the season (heck, some of them start breaking down, and roots start escaping before we even get them into the ground) over the course of the growing season. I've enjoyed using these, and that means less newspaper to haul to the recycling place, and the newspaper also helps improve the soil (an in case you were worried about the ink, newspapers used soy based inks in their normal printing. Use caution with glossy ads though, which might contain some metallic inks). Win-win. Last year Mr. S and I did an informal scientific comparison. We planted his seeds in plastic cups and I did the newspaper pots. With the newspaper pots, I plant the entire thing in the soil, and maybe break down the sides and bottoms a little bit if they haven't started breaking down on their own. Mr. S takes his plants out of the cups and transplants the plants only in the soil. I hypothesized that my newspaper plants would do better. He hypothesized that his would. As I said, this was pretty informal, and I accidently broke one of his peppers (it really was an accident), but I think overall his plants did better. So this year I think we are going to save ourselves the trouble of folding all those newspaper pots and just use plastic cups with holes punched in the bottom and sides.

Another thing we do with our plant starts is that we buy those black planting trays and only use the solid ones (as opposed to the ones with holes in the bottom for drainage) and we put all our pots in those. Then when it's time to water, we pour the water in the bottom of the tray and the water goes up into the cups through some scientific term (I'm thinking osmosis or diffusion, but I think there is something else, that involves the water moving upwards against gravity...checking google...hmmm, maybe transpiration or capillary action) and the water goes all the way to the soil surface. This way we know that the plant has been thoroughly watered and we minimize the risk of plant problems the occur with watering from the top down.

And for light, we have some of those wire shelves and we bought some lights (with just a regular florescent bulb) that we put on chains so we can adjust the height of the lights as the plants get taller. We keep the rack covered in plastic (just painter's plastic) and put the lights on a timer. The plastic helps hold in the heat from the lights, so we don't have to use too much supplementary heat to keep the plants warm, even in our basement.

It's been so fun to do this the past four years or so, and it gets exciting when the plants start poking through the surface. Then it's always great to watch them grow bigger and bigger and bigger, until it's time to harden them off and plant them in the garden!

This year we are doing a salsa garden, and lots of cucumbers (to try our hand at making pickles). We'll also do some pumpkins. We have a decent sized garden here at our house that we'll do a lot of tomatoes in, and maybe some carrots and green beans too. We are also planning to get a plot of land out at a farm our church owns where we will do the cukes and pumpkins and some more tomatoes and peppers and the onions. I saw some huge onions growing out there last year, so hopefully the soil is just made for onions. We are looking forward to it. And that's pretty much our garden plans for this year. What about you, do you have any plans for a garden? If so, what are they?


Kari and Steve said...

My plans for a garden is to reuse the containers we bought last year. Our plants weren't really successful last year, and we still have two peppers growing in our basement. We will probably keep the peppers and instead of tomatoes I may try some greens, and I really want to grow lemongrass and some other herbs to cook with. We have 5 pots so I may try 1 smaller tomato, the 2 peppers, greens, and then not sure what the last one will be... we shall see!

dacjohns said...

I plant it and the weeds will come. :D

I hope you have a much more successful garden than me. I guess mine would do better if I were here to take care of it instead of visiting my girls.

Kaycei said...

I'm downsizing the garden this year and will eventually replace at least one row with something perennial--more raspberries, strawberries, or asparagus. I'll only have 6 rows this year instead of the 9 I had last year. There will be the typical mix: squashes/melons/peas/edamame, tomatoes/peppers/eggplant/potatoes, lettuce/broccoli/cabbage/artichokes(if they work)/onions/garlic.